SPECTRA features innovative & award-winning poets from across the country with Quad Cities-based poets & writers at Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Avenue Rock Island, IL), unless otherwise indicated.



University of Iowa International Writing Program x German American Heritage Center x Midwest Writing Center x Rozz-Tox Present: SPECTRA Reading Series ft. International Writers Tunay Önder (Germany) & Chun Sue (China/ Germany)

free & open to the public

TUNAY ÖNDER (essayist, curator, performer; Germany) is the co-author of the art book migrantenstadl [migrantown] and co-editor of the anthology Urteile [Verdicts], both 2016. Her transdisciplinary work, which merges literature, curatorial practice, and performance, has recently been supported by a grant from the German Foundation for Performing Arts (Fond Daku). She participates courtesy the Max Kade Foundation.

CHUN SUE 春树 (fiction writer, poet; PRC/Germany) became widely known with her iconic 2002 novel 《Beijing Doll》, translated into many languages. She has since published five additional novels, most recently the autobiographical 《Milk Teeth》 (2019), three poetry collections, and books of essays. A frequent presence at literary festivals and arts residencies in Europe, she also publishes in Chinese literary magazines. She was billed as a Chinese post-80s icon on the cover of “Time” magazine’s Asian edition in February 2004. Chun Sue has been invited to the Stavanger Poesifestival, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Durham Book Festival, the Poesiegalerie in Vienna, the Poetic Tandem in Vienna, and the Présences à Frontenay in France. Her participation is courtesy of the Paul and Hualing Engle Fund.…/2009-07/01/content_204945.htm

This event is made possible by the collaboration of the following organizations:


SPECTRA Reading Series: Release Party for SEARCHING FOR PETCO by Skylar Alexander

            Who: Midwest Writing Center presents the SPECTRA Reading Series

What: Release Party for SEARCHING FOR PETCO by Skylar Alexander

            When: Thursday, October 20, 7pm doors | 8pm show

            Where: Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Ave. Rock Island, IL)

            Cost: free & open | donations welcome | books available

SPECTRA Lives! The Quad Cities reading series returns to Rozz-Tox on Thursday, October 20 to celebrate the release of Skylar Alexander’s debut poetry collection Searching for Petco, released earlier this year by the estimable Forklift Books.

Skylar Alexander will read from the book, and will be joined on stage by fellow poets KayLee Chie Kuehl, Ryan Collins, and Lauren Haldeman, whose new graphic novel, Team Photograph, was just released by Sarabande Books. The event will be hosted by Baldur Dashing and Moxie Hart of Iowa City’s Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha Burlesque, who will also be performing between sets. The evening will be filled with poetry, music, dancing, and some other surprises—it promises to be unlike any other reading the Quad Cities has ever seen.

Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the show starts at 8:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase. Donations to MWC are welcome and go to support youth writing programs in the QC. Please contact Ryan Collins at MWC with questions and media inquiries: | 309-732-7330.   

About Searching for Petco:

A student of Buddhist philosophy and pop culture, poet Skylar Alexander confesses all in her debut book of poems. Searching for Petco grapples with the self and with self-harm; with permission and survival; with grandmas and mixtapes; with dust bunnies and doom; with making poisonous gas and becoming air; with craving and professional wrestling; with blobfish and leeches; with Norman Reedus and vegans; with Klingons and Iggy Pop; with friends loved and lost; with getting lost; and—yes—with searching for Petco.

Praise for Searching for Petco:

Searching for Petco is a mutant blast radius of righteous Midwestern anger and tender observation. Alexander takes a fire axe to our tech-bound, corporate-branded culture, wrecks misogyny and patriarchy with a fire axe, and turns hashtags into piercing poetic jabs. These poems are for all of us frustrated citizens searching for hope in the cruelty and gracelessness, all of us running errands, looking for a store in a strip mall, but finding a river, a sky, a friend instead.” — Adam Fell, author of Dear Corporation and I Am Not A Pioneer

“Furious, on fire, and achingly caustic, these poems tear through the page as you read, searching for a moment of rest in a reckless world, a moment where, like “the lava of my body | turning | there’s a Shinto god,” verse might fuse frustration into insight. This book is a wild ride through that heroic quest.” — Lauren Haldeman, author of Instead of Dying and Calenday

Bios for the Readers:

Growing up split between an ancestral farmhouse and a busted-up trailer on the banks of the Mississippi River, Skylar Alexander’s work centers on pop culture, chronic illness, philosophy, Buddhism, violence, and growing up in rural Iowa. Her writing has appeared in places such as CutbankSmokelong QuarterlyHobart, and Forklift, Ohio as well as many others. She studied English and Entrepreneurial Management at the University of Iowa and recently received her Master’s in Education from NYU Steinhardt. A book designer and teacher, she now lives in New York City.

Lauren Haldeman is the author of Instead of Dying (winner of the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry), Calenday, The Eccentricity is Zero, and the graphic novel Team Photograph. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, The Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, Fence and others. A graphic novelist and poet, she’s received an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and visiting fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and University of Cape Town, South Africa. You can find her online at

KayLee Chie Kuehl is a poet, writer, and artist based in Iowa City. Her projects often focus on culture, identity, race, and spirituality. Through the work creates, she hopes to provide a safe and healing space for as many people as she can.

Ryan Collins is the author of A New American Field Guide & Song Book, and several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Asymptote, Diagram, Handsome, Ninth Letter, PEN Poetry Series. Recent work appears in Apartment, Crazyhorse, Sink Review, and Two Peach. He is the founder/host of the SPECTRA Reading Series in Rock Island, IL.

Bawdy Bawdy Ha Ha brings many working artists and writers together to make burlesque; I love their practices and what they have to offer when workshopping routines. I have much to learn from them regarding classic costuming [and] costuming choices that lend themselves to burlesque dance. Most of all, their practices and performances have greatly inspired me to bring clear storytelling and a sense of poetry into my burlesque choreography.” — Dolores Sparkles, from “Five Questions with Dolores Sparkles, Burlesque Comedian” by Genevieve Trainor of Little Village

The SPECTRA Reading Series manifests thanks to the generous support of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and Illinois Humanities.


We’ll be updating the 2023 SPECTRA schedule soon! Please check back and join the SPECTRA Facebook group for updates on our events and other readings, workshops, etc. from all over the country! 

SPECTRA manifests thanks to the generous support
of the Illinois Humanities and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

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